February 7th, 2014
Everyone knows what happened when Dennis Eckersley met Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series. But for Eckersley, the first regular season appearance after that was truthfully more defining in a Hall of Fame career.
Flash back to April 3, 1989, Seattle at Oakland in front of 46,163 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, as it was named then. Mark McGwire’s three-run homer in the first had given Dave Stewart an early lead, and Tony La Russa’s A’s were clinging to a 3-2 lead entering the ninth. Enter the Eck. The right-hander got Jeffrey Leonard to ground out to third, Greg Briley to fly out to left and Dave Valle to fly out to right. Back to business as usual.
It was the first of 51 appearances that season for Oakland, resulting in 33 saves and one of his three top-5 American League Most Valuable Player finishes, and an 0.607 WHIP that would be the lowest in a 24-year Hall of Fame career. Most importantly, that Opening Day set in motion the A’s last World Series title — a sweep of the Giants in the earthquake-marred Bay Bridge Series — and Eckersley’s only world champion ring.
In fact, Eck’s recovery from the Miracle Homer of ’88 was so complete and satisfying, he even covered first base to record the final putout of ’89, finishing with his trademark roundhouse air-punch:
Eckersley made two Opening Day starts for Cleveland (1976-77) and five for Boston (1979-83). Do people ask him every year about his pitch sequence to Gibson? Yes. Should people watch these videos to remind themselves why the Miracle Homer meant the significance of a mosquito on an elephant to an MLB legend in the long haul? Yes.